When you finally acknowledge and really accept that you can do and be more than the limitations others have set before you, there are more worlds open to you, with understanding and growth that has no limits than you have imagined, right in front of you.
My Reluctant Ministry brings people into my life that I would not have otherwise been graced with and opportunities to help in ways I could never have guessed. When you think of ministry, you automatically think spiritual or religious. Here in America’s insides, people’s needs are a hands on effort because even those who seem to be caught in the maze specifically to be judged by the rest of us, are deserving of the grace that anyone deserves just by virtue of being a fellow human being. This effort sometimes requires me to focus more on legal, practical matters to help find ones’ way through the end of the maze. I have come across men who, in hopes to make it, will fake it.
My friend, whom I’ll call Dan, is someone I probably would have never met outside the gates. I’d like to try and fool myself into not having any responsibility for that fact, but the truth is we all have preconceived ideas about people places and things and we are sometimes caught up in our own maze of those notions. We’re motivated to change by things like fear, desire, need and sometimes imagination.
Dan came to me with the most sincere facets of all of the above and little direction on how to accomplish his goals. I was… well, reluctant. I have spent all my incarceration living in the law library and had accomplished some of my own goals and didn’t see being able to help this young man very much because of my preconceived ideas about the men I’m imprisoned with and my lack of vision for others. In the process of helping this young man learn how to defend himself from the treacherous penal system, I learned so much from him about myself that I actually consider Dan my friend. Something I would not have been able to do under any other circumstances because he used to be a racist. Self professed. He shared with me about the day he stopped being a racist. He was sent to medical by a Sergeant because of an infection that was oozing and painful. When he got to the clinic, there was a very sweet looking older grandmotherly type of officer as clinic reception and when he approached her desk she told him she didn’t care who sent him to medical that he knew he couldn’t come to medical without signing up for sick call and that if he didn’t carry his beggar black ass out of there she was going to hit the panic button and tell security he was coming after her, at which point he backed out and left quickly.
The very next day, the same Sergeant saw he was in the same condition and again sent him to medical. The same grandmotherly officer was there again but this time there was also a Practitioner there who saw the infection and immediately ushered Dan to the treatment area where he proceeded to treat him with utmost care and professionalism, tending his wound and making sure he had enough dressings and antibiotic cream to get him through the infection. Thankfully, Dan healed, in more ways than one, and he affected healing in me through the whole process.
You see, Dan is a black man, as was the grandmotherly officer that drove him away from the clinic in fear and humiliation the day before. The practitioner was white. Dan told me that day in November 2012, he stopped being a racist because he now realizes that the person behind the skin is what matters, not the skin.
When Dan came to me seeking help to understand the justice system, I was more than glad to help him learn, but I had my reservations. By helping Dan with his case, I was able to experience not only Dan’s learning and real heartfelt drive, but I realized the ugly truth was that I was more like the grandmotherly officer than the helpful medical practitioner and even though I never considered myself racist, that day I grew and healed and learned.
Even the fact that Dan and I have spiritual talks and share some reading materials, the true ministering came through in the practical hands on effort to help him learn worldly ways, while Dan taught me the ways of the soul. I now no longer look at a person’s outer appearance because I first am looking inside of myself to check my own place in the cosmos by ridding myself of those old preconceived notions. That may have been the day I truly stopped being racist too.
* With gratitude for Leah, who not only listens to me, but actually hears me, and suggested the title for my article – all my love.